One of the most interesting and useful observations Mullins and Kiley made is that most examiners don’t read your thesis like it’s a novel – starting at the beginning and reading through to the end. Shocked? I was the first time I read this, but then I reflected on the last academic book which I read from start to finish… and I couldn’t think of one. Academic texts are dense, difficult, cumbersome beings at the best of times and a thesis is even worse.
Most examiners read the abstract, introduction and the conclusion to see what the work is about and then look in the references, so you should write these last – or rather rewrite them at the end. Any questions you raise in the introduction should be answered in the conclusion. If these parts act as righteous ‘bookends’ the examiner will form a better impression of you as a scholar – and is likely to be more forgiving of you if you slip up a bit in the middle parts.